Moken Sea Gypsies in Phuket

Those who know me are fully aware that I usually tend to go off the beaten track. I guess that applies to both traveling and life in general. When I travel I usually try to seek out destinations and places not many tourists visit. The island Phuket is known for it’s modern hotels, swanky beach clubs and sun-baked tourists, this is especially true for the west-coast of the island. Recently I had a short layover in Phuket. Luckily for me, our crew hotel is located on Ko Siray which is a small island on the east coast, connected by a bridge to the main island. Ko Siray island reveals a lesser-known, more humble side of Phuket.

I arrived at the hotel in the evening and woke up early the following morning. As I was standing on the balcony enjoying the sunrise my attention was drawn to a nearby beach where I noticed some old fashioned fishing boats. That beach worked like a magnet on me and I decided I had to check this place out. After breakfast I headed out for that beach but on my way there I had to stop a few times to enjoy and explore some other interesting places along the way.

I managed to get to the beach in the late afternoon and discovered a small interesting village by the beach where local fishermen live. The village is named Laem Tukkae Village but locals often refer to it as the Sea Gypsy Fisherman Village. This is a colony of Moken Sea Gypsies who are said to be the first inhabitants of the Andaman coastal regions of Thailand. They share a distinct culture within the larger group of sea-roaming Andaman coast tribes known as the Moken and they even speak their own language. 

The Sea Gypsies seem a bit shy but they do welcome foreigners and they don’t seem to mind if you watch them as they cook their dinner outside their houses or construct their mangrove-wood fish traps on the beach. I finally found a person who spoke some english, a local fisherman, who told me there were around 1900 people living there. Due to fishing restrictions in national park waters and other development along the beaches of Thailand the once-nomadic sea gypsies have been forced to settle.

They live a simple life and people seem to be happy, there is no need for iPads here.